Young Nicholas and his family enjoy a comfortable life, until Nicholas\' father dies and the family is left penniless. Nicholas, his sister and mother venture to London to seek help from their Uncle Ralph, but Ralph\'s only intentions are to separate the family and exploit them. Nicholas is sent to a school run by the cruel, abusive and horridly entertaining Wackford Squeers. Eventually, Nicholas runs away with schoolmate Smike, and the two set off to reunite the Nickleby family.

This Dickens\' classic is brought to life by the star performances and the fantastic production design.

Douglas McGrath adapted Jane Austin\'s Emma to the screen some years ago, he now turns his attention to Dickens, compressing that English heavyweight\'s 800 page Nicholas Nickeby into a film a little over two hours, as Timothy Spall, one of the stars of the film describes it, \'it\'s a bit like getting an ostrich into a thermos flask\'.

On the death of his father 19 year old Nicholas, Charlie Hunnam, is left responsible for his mother and sister Kate, Romola Garai, but, because of his father\'s speculative investments, no money with which to do so. The three travel to industrialised London from the idyllic Devonshire countryside to their Uncle Ralph, Christopher Plummer, a ruthless investment broker who doesn\'t believe in charity, even for family. Kate is set up to work in a dressmakers and expected to dance attendance on one of Uncle Ralph\'s clients, the lascivious Sir Mulberry Hawk, Edward Fox, while Nicholas is offered a teaching job out of London at the appalling Dotheboys Hall, a school for abandoned boys cruelly run by the Squeers: Jim Broadbent and Juliette Stevenson. When their ill-treatment of a lame boy Smike, Jamie Bell, becomes too much for Nicholas to tolerate the two escape and join a travelling troupe of players led by The Crummels, Nathan Lane and Dame Edna Everage.

McGrath has adapted the sprawling novel by focussing on Nicholas\' journey, the heart of which is the character of Smike. But the story is also about family and the creation of a new one from unexpected sources when the original fails. It\'s a terrific tale of triumph against cruelty to women and children. The performances are the delight in this film version, Tom Courtenay is fabulous as Ralph\'s servant Noggs, Broadbent and Stevenson relish their horrible characters, Plummer so solid as the despicable Ralph, Timothy Spall so enjoyable as Charles Cheeryble, young Jamie Bell really excellent as poor Smike, even Charlie Hunnam is ok in the rather milkwater role of Nicholas. Design is tops. While not being a mad fan of Dickens\' adaptations I found myself rather enjoying this Nicholas Nickleby.